The Democratic Party and the presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders will sue the state of Arizona over voter access to the polls after the state’s presidential primary last month left thousands of residents waiting as long as five hours to vote. The lawsuit, which will be filed on Friday, focuses on Maricopa County, the state’s most populous county, where voters faced the longest lines on March 22 during the Democratic and Republican primaries after the county cut the number of polling places by 85 percent since 2008. Arizona’s “alarmingly inadequate number of voting centers resulted in severe, inexcusable burdens on voters county-wide, as well as the ultimate disenfranchisement of untold numbers of voters who were unable or unwilling to wait in intolerably long lines,” the lawsuit says. The lack of voting places was “particularly burdensome” on Maricopa County’s black, Hispanic and Native American communities, which had fewer polling locations than white communities and in some cases no places to vote at all, the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit is calling on the U.S. District Court of Phoenix to review the polling location plan for the November election. It also wants to stop state policies that have a “dramatic and disparate impact” on minorities, who are more likely to vote Democratic, the lawsuit says. For instance, the filing cites a recently enacted law that makes it a felony for someone to turn in a sealed absentee ballot on behalf of another voter, unless the person is a caregiver or family member.
“Arizona has a history of problems with guaranteeing the rights of their citizens to vote, and with this lawsuit we hope to stop it now in time for the 2016 general election,” said Marc E. Elias, the elections lawyer for Clinton’s presidential campaign. Elias is bringing the lawsuit on behalf of the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Arizona Democratic Party and several Arizonans.
The Clinton campaign will join the lawsuit after it is filed on Friday, according to Democratic officials. Sanders, the senator from Vermont who is running against Clinton for the party’s presidential nomination, is also joining the lawsuit, according to one of his senior aides. Clinton defeated Sanders by 20 points in the Arizona primary. Many Sanders supporters complained soon after that the long lines especially hurt support for the Vermont senator among young, new voters.